Lewis Hamilton's bad start hands Button Melbourne

The McLaren team-mates finish first and third in the Australian Grand Prix, with Vettel second

LAST UPDATED AT 09:44 ON Sun 18 Mar 2012

LEWIS HAMILTON started the F1 year on a bum note today, handing the Australian Grand Prix to his McLaren team-mate Jenson Button after throwing away pole position to finish in third place.

Button's victory was never in doubt after he beat Hamilton into the first corner and pulled away to maintain his lead for the rest of the Melbourne race, the first Grand Prix of the F1 season.

Hamilton might have clinched second place, but an unlucky encounter with a safety car let Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel edge past him. Vettel kept second place until the flag, with his team-mate Mark Webber taking fourth.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was the unexpectedly speedy fifth driver across the line, with Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi securing sixth after Williams's Pastor Maldonado crashed at the Turn Seven corner on the final lap.

After Button's superior get-away, Hamilton was three seconds behind him going into his first pit stop one lap behind his team-mate. That meant he started again behind Mexican driver Sergio Perez.

It took Hamilton four laps to overtake Perez, by which time Button had 10 seconds on him. The two men were about that distance apart when they made their second pit stops on lap 36.

It was then that Hamilton suffered the bad luck that cost him second position when he was forced by a signal to slow down as a safety car was deployed to recover the stranded Vitaly Petrov.

World champion Vettel was approaching the pit entry when the signal changed which meant he was allowed to continue at top speed until he stopped – and the difference gave him second place. · 

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